December 8, 2019

Books

"English was my worst subject (next to Health) in high school right through to my second year of university, when I stopped taking it. I’d fallen afoul of the empty-rule syndrome. Don’t use the pronoun I in an essay; don’t begin sentences with..."

"This April, Forbes magazine published the article ‘The Writer Who Couldn’t Answer Standardized Test Questions About Her Own Work (Again)!’ It focused on the American poet Sara Holbrook, who had written for the Huffington Post about just this..."

"Two weeks after I read Deborah Levy’s The Cost of Living, I found out that she would be speaking at a literary symposium titled “Against Storytelling” at a venue some minutes from where I live. The Cost of Living is a memoir about the period..."

"One morning, almost fifteen years ago, I woke up from a dream that was so vivid and powerful that I knew it must be true. I still remember both what happened in the dream and the feelings it left me with. Now the fact is that listening to someone.."

"This year is the 100th anniversary of the first meeting of the Algonquin Round Table, one of the 20th century’s most famous literary gatherings. The story has become a part of New York City lore: In June 1919, a group of writers and critics..."

"Most major achievements, be they personal or collective, arrive after rehearsals. Some unfold as flights of the imagination. The 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing provides a great opportunity to examine how an entire branch of..."

"Can a book change the way we think? I don’t mean that in the sense of a reader’s opinion or ideology shifting—of course the right literary work can do that. But can a book rewire the brain itself, literally changing the way one particular mind..."

"“Almost all books of aphorisms, which have ever acquired a reputation, have retained it,” John Stuart Mill wrote in 1837, aphoristically—that is to say, with a neat if slightly dubious finality. (“How wofully the reverse is the case with systems..."

"Even if Georges Perec had not written a novel without the letter “E”—“La disparition,” later rendered into “E”-less English as “A Void”—he would still be one of the most unusual writers of the twentieth century. Among his works are a treatise on..."

"Before the advent of scientific evidence and philosophical guidance on the subject, literary odes to the creative and health benefits of walking flourished. No one has been more tireless in reviving the history of exhortations to join the “Order..."

"A few years ago, the novelist Helen Phillips woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of her young daughter’s screams. She rushed to her bedside but was unable to calm her child, who was stuck in a nightmare, crying: “I want Mommy! I want..."

"Blume Pfeffer was born in 1907 in Galicia to a family that placed no particular importance on the education of girls. She dreamed of writing, a dream that was only realized when Blume, now married to Lemel Lempel, finally moved to New York..."

"A few words about my sexism. Nerd that I am, I keep a book diary, i.e., a list of the 40 or 50 books I read and listen to each year. In 2016, while perusing said list, I made a discovery that startled me: There were almost no women on it...."

"Kevin and Alex Malarkey were alone together when the accident happened. It was November 2004, and the Malarkeys had moved to rural Huntsville, Ohio, from suburban Columbus just weeks earlier. The family was struggling financially, and Kevin and..."

"BOREDOM IS ONE of the most common human experiences, yet it seems continually to defy complete understanding. We all know what it is to feel bored, but what exactly prompts, constitutes, or follows from the condition of boredom is far less obvious."

"Joel Burcat’s debut novel, “Drink to Every Beast,” isn’t climbing best-seller lists or getting attention from prominent critics. But it’s remarkable for a different reason. He finished it after he became legally blind. An environmental lawyer..."

"What role should the bible play in American politics? This question remains at the center of debates over hot-button social issues—such as abortion and same-sex marriage—where traditional and progressive values continue to clash. As these..."

"Misery, evidently, has its pleasures and its claims, both in life and in art. This can hardly come as a surprise since the literature of the world, catering as it must to our dreams, dwells heavily upon doom, disaster, disorder, and pain..."

"The world of literature, where Jews have made so many invaluable and long-standing contributions, is succumbing quickly to the new anti-Semitism. The most recent example comes from the United Kingdom. Two cultural organizations in England have..."

"Around the turn of the eighth century, a sickly Anglo-Saxon monk known as Dryhthelm died in the early hours of a Northumbrian evening. Through the night his household mourned his passing. Then at dawn, as the sun returned, so did Dryhthelm, who..."

"Authorship attribution is helpful if you suspect fraud: for instance, if you believe that Shakespeare wasn’t educated enough to write the plays, or that Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre was really written by her brother, Branwell. It’s also helpful..."

"Nobody knows who threw the first brick at Stonewall. It might not even have been a brick. Legend has it a woman in the crowd yelled, “Aren’t you going to do something?” as she was dragged away by cops. We don’t know who she was."

"An old saying goes that people become more conservative as they age. George Will’s new book, “The Conservative Sensibility,” shows that the opposite can be true. This book is not so much a brief for conservatism as it is a learned and lengthy..."

"In the United States, the name Noah Webster (1758-1843) is synonymous with the word ‘dictionary’. But it is also synonymous with the idea of America, since his first unabridged American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828 when..."

"Now that the days are long and vacation is on hand, it’s time to dream, especially inside the pages of some book we’ve been meaning to get to all year. The more daunting the literary challenge the better—forget old standbys like Hamlet and..."

"Is “discussion” really so wonderful? Does “communication” actually exist? What if I were to deny that it does? The public discussion of exit from the European Union has already caused incalculable, probably irreversible and completely superfluous.."

"Many, perhaps most, ideas are evil or delusive or both.” It is a remarkable conclusion for a book that argues with some force that ideas are the driving force of history – “not environment or economics or demography, though they all condition..."

"...two new books give lucid, stimulating accounts of recent discoveries in neuroscience and psychology. Both authors aim to challenge antiquated views of the brain and human behavior. In so doing, they help us think through perennial debates..."

"What was Postmodernism? In the 35 years since Fredric Jameson’s New Left Review essay “Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” — and the 40 years since the publication of Jean-François Lyotard’s The Postmodern Condition..."

""Many classic children’s books beg for philosophical readings: the likes of “Charlotte’s Web” or “Are You My Mother?” are well known as complex and subterranean ruminations on death and identity and community. Had you asked me a couple of years..."

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JJ Editor's Picks

"There is nothing like the threat of nuclear Armageddon for focusing minds. That, at least, was true for Nato over the decades from its foundation in 1949. During the Cold War the alliance had a common purpose (collective defence), a common space..."

"Democrats are too “woke” for their own good, or so goes the argument. “Today’s progressivism is more or less a secular form of religion with its own high standards,” Matt Lewis, a conservative columnist, wrote this spring. “Eventually,” he..."

"To secure a stable climate for future generations, humanity will need to permanently bury gigatons of carbon dioxide. There is already too much in the atmosphere — 415 parts per million, when scientists say 350 ppm is the upper bound of safety..."

"Romantic love – seeking it, glorifying it, dishing it – is a human obsession. My English barmaid mother called it a ‘funny five minutes’ never to be trusted and basically dangerous for women. The feminist author Marilyn Yalom saw a mysterious..."

"Friday’s jobs report must have been adapted from a comic book — because everyone’s calling it a “blockbuster” (and Martin Scorsese hasn’t shown any interest in it). In November, America’s unemployment rate hit a half-century low, as U.S...."

"I know I won’t be the first to say it, seeing as how Barbra Streisand already sent you a star of David necklace, but on behalf of the Jews who weren’t famous enough to be invited to your recent bat mitzvah, take it from me: Welcome to the tribe..."

"Many countries would dissolve into chaos and disarray if dealt the same cards Israel has in 2019. The United States, for all its well-deserved democratic admiration, is being torn at the seams ever since President Donald Trump’s election in 2016..."

"Recent national surveys project that 53% of children will own a smartphone by age 11. While the reality of a child being able to utilize the features of a smartphone has provided many new benefits to both them and their parents, the harm of..."